At any rate, he had a happy death. Just over 80, in good health if a little deaf, well known and well liked, dignified and distinguished, he had addressed the House of Lords on Thursday 21 October 1993, choosing to intervene in a debate on a favourite topic: employee share ownership. His argument was double-edged or at least ambivalent. He did not object to the effect of 14 years of Thatcherism in reducing the power of organised labour; but he genially deplored the consequent shift in power towards capital, since the essential objective ought to be a wider spread of wealth among the majority, without which the current unpopularity of state socialism was likely to prove temporary. It was after 6 o'clock when he sat down. On Friday, as so often before, he caught the plane up to Orkney, in his old parliamentary constituency, where he still possessed a capacious home in the Old Manse of Firth, near Kirkwall. On Saturday evening he had a severe stroke. On Sunday he was dead. When the House of Lords reconvened on Monday, the tributes were warm and widespread, and not just from his own party. Jo Grimond, the leader of the Labour peers said, was 'a man who gave politics a good name'.
LRB 5 May 2005 | PDF Download